Vail Daily letter: Partisan science
July 19, 2016
Butch Mazzuca has written a provocative column (Valley Voices, July 11) on who really benefits from the research that goes into climate change science. He states his premise as follows: "Regardless of one's position on the subject of climate change, the Latin term cui bono (who benefits) is perhaps the most relevant phase one can use when discussing the subject."
Mazzuca then proceeds to take his cui bono question into an investigation of how biased scientists may be whose research leads to the conclusion that global warming is real and can be traced to the human contribution to accelerated amounts of greenhouse gas emissions over the last five to six decades.
Biased by whom? Well, by the federal government whose left-leaning minions in D.C. favor funding research that leads to climate change affirmation rather than climate change denial. Or by President Obama himself, who in stating that "our greatest national security threat is climate change," may be signaling to the scientific community that any researchers who are not doing research in support of climate change need not apply for federally funded grants.
Is Mazzuca entirely wrong here? No, he is not. Scientists get their Ph.D.'s in fields like physics, chemistry, micro-biology. They are not awarded advanced degrees in ethics or morals or sanctimonious saintliness. Are some of them likely to follow the money trail and submit research proposals that they know the government is keen on funding? Yes, of course they are. Some but not all. If the vast majority of scientists doing research in the field felt that the science was pointing in a different direction, climate change is not caused by human intervention, they would likely shift their research towards confirming that conclusion. Scientists know that science is at best a set of educated assumptions subject to revision when the evidence they believed to be true proves false. Like politicians who don't want to be on the wrong side of history, scientists are averse to being on the wrong side of science.
What upsets me about Mazzuca's conclusions is not that he believes that political ideology infiltrates and can contaminate the field of scientific research. I believe that, too. It's that Mazzuca is blatantly one-sided and overtly partisan in his investigation of the climate change debate. Yes, liberals have an agenda to push and will act in a partisan fashion to fund their point of view. But what about conservatives? Are the scientists who are churning out research which supports the climate change deniers on the political right operating entirely on their own behalf in some pristine ivory tower laboratory? Of course, they are not.
According to Robert Bruille, a research scientist working with Drexel University, an enormous amount of money has been spent over the past 20 years by conservative foundations and trusts who have a vested interest in denying climate change. Much of this money is so-called "dark money," funds that are passed through third-party foundations with names like Donors Trust and Donors Capital. None of it is traceable to its original source. How much money are we talking about here ? According to Bruille, 140 foundations transferred $558 million to 700 climate change denier organizations between 2003 and 2010. Some of the more well known foundation names include the John Williams Pope Foundation, the Howard Charitable Foundation and the Sarah Scairfe Foundation. Other household names are the Anschutz Foundation and the Coors Foundation. The infamous Koch Brothers are said to have contributed $88 million on their own. But since that fact was reported by Greenpeace, a notorious left-wing group composed of environmental crazies, I won't include it in my argument.
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I like Mazzuca's use of the Latin term "cui bono" to frame his argument. Cui bono, indeed! Tracing motives and hunting down the beneficiaries is indeed useful and important. I just wish Mazzuca could be a little more even handed and a little less partisan in his purpose. Look, I'm a liberal. My prejudices and partisan beliefs lead me in the direction of believing climate change is real and society must act to reduce its impact. But If the science ultimately proves that I'm wrong, that it was all a liberal hoax, I will sadly eat crow and sheepishly slink away. I only ask Mazzuca to do the same.
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